The history of San Francisco Ferry service(s) began in the 1840’s (before the Gold Rush aka: 49’ers) and continued between San Francisco and Marin until the Golden Gate Bridge was opened in 1937. The North Pacific Railroad ran the ferry line between San Francisco and rural Marin; but for many the history of San Francisco ferryboats is about Juanita Munson and Charles Van Damme.
Juanita Munson was a wild woman and Charles Van Damme was a very wealth man. Juanita, according to some, was Sally Stanford’s sister.
Charles Van Damme was a self-made man who operated the Richmond San Rafael ferry. Van Damme was born in Little River, and the Van Damme State Park in Mendocino is named after him. He probably never met Juanita, but their names are linked because of the Charles Van Damme Ferryboat.
Built in 1916, the Van Damme was a sidewheel ferry used to transport cars, cattle, and people between Richmond and San Rafael before it was beached in Sausalito and became the home of “Juanita’s Galley.”
The Galley was loved by all, including the highly acclaimed San Francisco restaurant critic Herb Caen. Patrons included: “The Hell’s Angels, Robert Mitchum, Sterling Hayden, Joseph Cotten, Noel Coward and other celebrities, as well as lawyers, judges and politicians who were regular hangers out at the Galley. The Smothers Brothers, Shelley Berman, the Kingston Trio, Jonathan Winters and Bill Cosby found their way across the Golden Gate Bridge following late-night performances in San Francisco.” By Styrous.
Now you are invited to take a ride on a ferryboat.
Sadly, this is all that’s left of the Charles Van Damme ferry and Juanita’s Galley.
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